Every year in Iowa, children are accidentally injured and/or killed with firearms. The horror of mass shootings has received much-deserved attention, but this is not the way most children are injured by guns. Statistically, most children under age five who are killed with a firearm are related to the shooter. This is usually a parent, sibling, or other family member. According to the Department of Justice, in half the cases, children who died from unintentional gun-related injuries were shot by someone playing with a gun.

There is a two-pronged approach to preventing injury and death of children by firearms: preventing access and teaching children to respect weapons.

Children are curious and learn by imitating what they see. Guns of all kinds should be stored in a locked container to prevent curious little hands from picking up a firearm. According to the Children’s Safety Network, the average 3-year-old is strong enough to pull the trigger of a handgun. Kids up to age 14 lack the impulse control to resist handling a gun they find, and behavioral skills training is more effective than simply preaching to not play with guns.

Visit the Children’s Safety Network’s website www.childrenssafetynetwork.org for more information.